Jul 032012

A recent story in the New York Times noted that many hospitals around the country have started to require that their nurses have at least a bachelor’s degree in nursing. More stringent hiring requirements have contributed to a surge in enrollment at four-year colleges, particularly those with RN to BSN programs.

In recent years, ECU has seen an increase in the number of applicants to the College of Nursing’s RN to BSN option which is designed with the working registered nurse in mind.

Sixty-six people applied and 47 were admitted in fall 2010. Last fall, 78 applied and 64 were admitted. For classes starting this August, 86 out of 94 applicants have enrolled.

Nurses are returning for various reasons.

Most say they are returning for personal satisfaction. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, encouragement from their employers and career advancement.

On average, students graduate from our RN/BSN option in four to five semesters. Thirty-three students graduated in spring 2011, and another 33 graduated this May.

Professional organizations and groups such as the Institute of Medicine have advocated for an increase in nurses who hold a BSN degree or higher due to the challenges of health care in the 21st century which requires nurses to care for older, more diverse populations with more complex and chronic diseases.

The RN to BSN option has been included in several potential programs for expansion and partnership. Faculty and staff have been active members in planning the Regionally Increasing Baccalaureate Nurses or RIBN project for eastern North Carolina. It’s modeled after a program in western North Carolina. ECU is working with Pitt, Beaufort, Lenoir and Roanoke-Chowan community colleges  to provide a seamless transition from the community college setting to the university while earning ADN and BSN degrees. The first cohort of students begins this fall.

The shift in nursing education to meet the challenges of the 21st century requires competencies in leadership, health policy, systems, research and evidence-based practice, and community and public health.

-Dr. Sylvia Brown RN, BSN, MSN, EdD, CNE
Dean of the ECU College of Nursing




May 292012

These days, the buzz in nursing education is technology. USA Today  recently asked whether technology has changed the content in our nation’s nursing schools. The answer is two-fold: technology provides new opportunities for nursing students and technology creates additional questions that must be answered.

East Carolina University’s College of Nursing is located in a modern, tech savvy building that has eight clinical laboratories for student practice. Each lab contains life-like manikins that can be programmed to replicate just about any condition from childbirth to heart attack. Students have the opportunity to practice new skills in a controlled, safe environment.

Today, most nursing students do not remember a time when computers were not part of their lives. The equipment in these labs mirrors the equipment in hospitals where new graduates will work. Even the software in the bedside computers is similar to the charting software in hospitals and medical offices around the country. Learning on the real thing gives today’s nursing students a leg up when they enter the workforce. As expected, millennial students excel using advanced technology, but does this make them better nurses?

Dr. Frances Eason, a longtime ECU Nursing professor, keeps her students grounded by teaching them how to care for their patients without depending on technology. Calculators are not allowed in her tests—she reasons that a patient can die in the amount of time it takes a nurse to find a calculator to figure a drug calculation or IV dosage. But, what about accuracy? She believes technology should be used only after students learn how to solve problems by clinical reasoning. Often, we rely on calculators but really do not know how to set up the calculations in the first place!

Many providers now use handheld computers to input patient data and to research diagnoses and medication. While students learn how to use these devices, we stress the importance of the credibility of the information they can access. Handhelds provide instant access to information, but students must learn how to distinguish between good and bad information.

Technology is certainly exciting and a huge asset in nursing education, but this advantage comes with strings. Students must be taught traditional nursing skills to be able to interpret and use the technology. And, they must learn to question the credibility and validity of the technology. For this, students will continue rely on a blend of critical thinking and technology.

–Dr. Sylvia T. Brown, Dean
College of Nursing